State implicates Dayton AD Baker in Dunbar football fiasco

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State implicates Dayton AD Baker in Dunbar football fiasco

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Mark Baker

After hinting at it in previous documents, Ohio High School Athletic Association officials on Thursday directly alleged Dayton Public Schools Athletic Director Mark Baker directed Dunbar to purposely lose its Oct. 28 football game against Belmont.

That incident led the OHSAA to fine DPS $10,000, place all DPS high schools on three years of probation, and require Baker and new building ADs to complete OHSAA training, because of “a serious lack of administrative responsibility and institutional control.”

This week, the OHSAA denied a request from the Dayton Unit NAACP to limit the penalties to Dunbar only, rather than all six DPS high schools.

OHSAA director of communications Tim Stried pointed to Baker’s role as the reason that request was denied.

“The reason that all DPS schools are on probation is that the major infraction, on the suggestion of throwing the game, was from the director of athletics for DPS,” Stried said, implicating Baker. “As long as that person is still in charge of all DPS schools (for athletics), they’re all going to be on probation. … I think that’s significant to know.”

Baker could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

School board president Robert Walker first said that the board stands by its decision to extend Baker's contract, but he added that he had not fully reviewed OHSAA's Thursday statement about Baker. He said he hoped to discuss the matter further with the school board.

The OHSAA made its probation ruling on April 6, but at that time said only that the direction to “throw the game” had come from “administrators or others in the district,” rather than football coaches. That left questions about the involvement of school principals and Dunbar’s own athletic director, in addition to Baker.

In interviews with both DPS’ investigator and an OHSAA panel, Baker denied giving a directive to throw the game.

On April 26, three weeks after OHSAA’s report, Dayton’s school board voted 5-1 to extend Baker’s contract for another two years. Several board members who backed Baker argued that the district should focus on the new policies in place to make sure this never happens again, rather than looking back.

Joe Lacey was the lone “no” vote, saying that DPS was not taking the issue of “throwing the game” seriously.

“The rallying around the people responsible for this really disgusts me,” he said.

DPS Superintendent Rhonda Corr was asked about accountability in the Dunbar case at a town hall meeting Wednesday night, and she said there were mistakes made on many levels, and that athletic staff should have followed the Dunbar principal’s initial directive not to use the player. 

“We’re trying to put this behind us and coach our coaches and our athletic directors and our teachers and our drivers to understand the policies, to understand how to de-escalate situations, to understand how to put best procedures in place,” Corr said Wednesday. “And that’s been lacking for so long.”

Derrick Foward, president of the Dayton Unit NAACP, said that his group had argued to the OHSAA that the punishment should apply only to Dunbar, its coaches and athletic director, as well as the district AD, not all Dayton Public Schools.

The OHSAA denied that request Wednesday but did agree to tweak the wording of its reprimand, striking the word “probation,” and replacing it with the words “enforceable review.”  

OHSAA Commissioner Dan Ross said the NAACP had complained about a negative connotation to the term “probation.” 

“So we’ve replaced that with (words explaining) what that probation means,” Ross said.  

Foward said his group did not ask OHSAA to remove the word probation and described that as miscommunication between his group and the OHSAA.

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